Congress panel waits for Rahul Gandhi’s return to finalise internal poll schedule

Jan 12, 2021 09:30 AM IST

At Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with dissenters and other senior leaders at her 10, Janpath residence on December 19, there was a renewed call for Rahul Gandhi to return as the party chief

A Congress panel tasked to hold organisational elections is waiting for former party chief Rahul Gandhi to return to India to finalise the schedule for the internal polls, people aware of the matter said.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Gandhi, who left for abroad on December 27, is expected to return in next few days.

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A member of the central election authority (CEA) of the Congress said the panel was to announce the schedule by December-end but it got delayed as efforts to build consensus on the presidential candidate are on.

He said Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with party leaders, including some members of the group of 23 letter writers, was part of that consensus-building.

“What we gather is that there is a broad consensus among the party leaders on the name now,” the CEA member quoted above said on the condition of anonymity.

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Once the schedule is finalised, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, will meet to clear it.

At Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with dissenters and other senior leaders at her 10, Janpath residence on December 19, there was a renewed call for Rahul Gandhi to return as the party chief.

While Rahul Gandhi said it would not be appropriate to interfere in the ongoing internal election process, the dissenters are firm that they will not accept a “proxy” candidate and insist that polls should be held at all levels, including the CWC.

As per Congress Constitution, 12 of the 25 CWC members have to be elected by All India Congress Committee (AICC) delegates and the rest appointed by the party president.

The CWC has not witnessed any election in over two decades now. The last elections to the CWC was in 1997 during the Kolkata plenary. Prior to that, the CWC polls took place in 1992 at the Tirupati session. The CEA member quoted above said the panel is expected to wind up the organisational polls by February-end as per the deadline to inform the Election Commission of the completion of the process.

He said in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the CEA has decided to restrict the number of electoral college AICC members. “We will not include the co-opted members this time. So, the electoral college will have around 800 members only” he added.

The CEA member further said that the digital IDs of the AICC members are almost ready to enable the panel to hold virtual sessions in case it is difficult to hold such a convention physically due to Covid-19.

The five-member CEA is headed by Madhusudan Mistry and its members are Rajesh Mishra, Krishna Byre Gowda, S Jothimani and Arvinder Singh Lovely, one of the 23 signatories to a letter written to Sonia Gandhi in August 2020 seeking a complete overhaul of the party and a full-time leadership to stem the steady decline of the 135-year-old organisation.

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    Aurangzeb Naqshbandi covers politics and keeps a close watch on developments in Jammu & Kashmir. He has been a journalist for 16 years.

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